Ben Arfa blow for Newcastle
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is contemplating having to do without star man Hatem Ben Arfa for the Christmas programme.
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Hatem Ben Arfa
The 25-year-old France international missed Saturday's 3-1 Barclays Premier League defeat by Manchester City after aggravating a hamstring injury and Pardew has admitted his absence is likely to be extended.
He said: "Hatem looks like he is going to miss the next two or three with the injury he has got. We can't risk him."
He returned and scored in the 2-1 defeat at Fulham on December 10, but later reported discomfort in the hamstring and fearing an escalation, Pardew has decided to rest him fully in a bid to avoid a much lengthier lay-off.
Ben Arfa is likely to miss Saturday's vital home clash with QPR, who finally recorded their first win of the campaign at the weekend, and the daunting Boxing Day trip to Manchester United as well as the visit to Arsenal three days later.
The Frenchman has been one of the few Magpies to have produced his top form this season and his loss is a significant blow to a manager who has seen his side defeated in six of its last seven league games.
His unavailability, coupled with those of central defender Steven Taylor and midfield playmaker Yohan Cabaye, has come at just the wrong time with the club sitting precariously just two points above the relegation zone ahead of a testing run of fixtures.
Pardew will at least have no fresh fitness concerns ahead of the QPR game with the rest of his squad having emerged unscathed from their ultimately fruitless second-half fightback against City.
He said: "I think that will be our squad, hopefully - we don't want to lose anyone. We have got a clean bill of health and that's a bonus in itself.
"Cheick [Tiote] was on a booking to miss QPR and I didn't want that, so I did take him off as a bit of a precaution for that.
"But the squad that played [on Saturday] is good enough. No excuses - if that team plays like that against QPR, I think we will win - with all due respect to QPR - and that's how we are going to have to play."